One of the first resorts in the country, this island has gone through several incarnations. The latest of these sees Sheraton bringing to the Maldives their experience around the world. In this case, prioritising the accommodation, swimming pool and spa experience.
This review is adapted from my review before the Sheraton make-over.
It is an up and down kind of island, with the main jetty at the tip, all the water bungalows down one side and the beach rooms down the other, with the service area taking over the bottom part. The beach rooms are on the south side and the beach here is excellent. For strolling through talcum powder sand or sunbathing at any time of day, this beach is one of the resort's main assets.
Towards the narrow, jetty tip of the island there is more beach on both sides, with thatched umbrellas and sun loungers. It is good sunbathing space for the four Water Villas and one Water Suite, but as the other Water Bungalows (52) parade down the north side there is rather less beach, although this has been addressed with pumping. The last of the Waterbungalows run close to the little spa island and its walkway.
Two of the Water Villas and a few of the Water Bungalows (where the island bulges) face west to the sunset from their decks. The others face north, though the sun hits their decks for part of the day. The reef drop-off is reachable from the Water Villas and Water Suite but not from the Water Bungalows, though the swimming is good everywhere. The interior design and facilities are first class.
Of the two categories of beach rooms, the BeachFront Deluxe Rooms (44) are the more economic. They stand in blocks of four, two up and two down, between the BeachFront Cottages and the Water Bungalows with their own little beach on the north side. These Deluxe Rooms now do have the TV or CD player that the other rooms have and some of the interior decor details. The furniture is of good quality wood and the bathroom is attractively tiled, though the veranda could be larger. Very usefully, some of the rooms are interconnected for families.
The BeachFront Cottages are really splendid rooms. Large, comfortable and very stylish. From the rustic thatched roof to the half open-air bathroom and out to the hibiscus lined veranda, everything speaks of old style comfort within a modern look. The air conditioning is concealed and silent, the teak furniture is attractive and plentiful, and the satellite TV is best viewed from the bed.
The 55 BeachFront Cottages are arranged in four horseshoe shapes, or closes, one next to the other. This does mean that only the end rooms are next to the beach and water, though it's only a matter of some strides across the garden in front to the water's edge. I say garden but the ground is a bit coarse still and it will take some time for the flowers and trees to fulfill their potential.
After the major reconstruction, that is one thing that will obviously need some more time. The central path from the rooms up to the public area and beyond is open to the midday sun. The public area, on the other hand, is still surrounded by lush growth and attractive flowers. Having said that, there is also a great deal of hard flooring of one type or another here, some wood decking but mostly tiles of various sizes and styles.
The swimming pool plays a prominent role in the resort day. Set between the main bar, the lobby and the restaurants, it is large, free form and ideal for that long lazy day of sunbathing, chatting and being served drinks and snacks under the parasol.
Unusually, three quarters of the guests here are on bed and breakfast deals. Perhaps for this reason the breakfast spread in the main restaurant is very good, with a variety of quality breads and pastries, savoury dishes, fruits and even a Sri Lankan breakfast. All the lunches and 5 of the 7 dinners in the restaurant are then set plates, while guests on bed and breakfast try out the other outlets, which are a 'pan-asian' cafe, a Barbecue Grill, a Thai and a Mediterranean restaurant.
The Aquum Spa, on its own little island connected with a walkway, is a fairly new addition to the resort. It is extensive, handsome and well staffed. Again, it will take a little while to beautify the setting and develop a bit of its own magic.
Diving in the region is well known and satisfying. The dive school is run by the established Euro-Divers and offers a full service (including rinsing and hanging up after dives). There is not much snorkelling to speak of inside the lagoon and though the drop-off is accessible it is not recommended, as the current could be strong in the channels. The hotel puts on a daily, charged, snorkel trip to compensate.
Two thirds of the guests are British and many have been coming year after year. Undisturbed by the changes, they comment on the relationship built up with the staff, of the welcome, remembered preferences and the little extras. The other third of guests are mostly from Japan and the new markets of Russia and China.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville